Sens. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, will travel to the district of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to hold a forum for the DREAM Act.
The event is in response to incendiary remarks made by King last week, when the conservative congressman suggested to Newsmax that many students who qualify for the DREAM Act are criminals. “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," King said.
The comments were summarily and swiftly dismissed by House GOP leaders, but Democrats see this as an opportunity to paint bright lines between their positions and Republicans', especially as it remains unclear whether House Republicans will be able to move immigration legislation of any kind. The Senate last month approved a bipartisan, comprehensive overhaul bill. The event in Iowa could be the first of many that Democrats and backers of the legislation stage to drum up support for change.
In floor remarks delivered Thursday, Durbin had strong words for King, whose comments he called "mean" and "hateful."
"If you are going to be part of this political business, you better have a pretty tough spine and a pretty hard shell because people throw criticism around all the time, and if you cannot take it, this ain’t beanbag, do something else," Durbin said on the Senate floor. "I deeply resent what was said by Congressman King about these DREAMers. It is totally unfair. It is mean, and it is hateful. Do not take my word for it; take the words of the Republican leaders who responded to Mr. King."
Durbin said at the time he believed King should meet a few DREAM Act students to see if interacting with them might change his mind. Now it appears that instead of waiting for King to take the proactive steps of doing so, the Illinois Democrat will bring the students to him.
"It troubles me and it is heartbreaking to think that these DREAMers — these young people who are simply asking for a chance to be part of the United States — would be characterized as dope smugglers and drug smugglers," Durbin continued in his floor remarks. "Obviously, Congressman King has never read the DREAM Act because if you have ever been convicted of a crime, you cannot be approved through the DREAM Act for citizenship — not a serious crime. That is part of the law. He should know better, but I am not sure that he cares.
"I am glad Members of his own party have stepped up and branded these comments for what they are. What I have to say to him is, take a moment away from the media, meet some of these DREAMers, and hear their stories. Hear what they have been through, and hear about what they want to do with their lives for the future of the United States of America."